I pissed Tech N9ne off right away. I got my time zones mixed up and was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when he called. I hit him back three minutes later and he, with good reason, answered the phone with a stern “Yeah.” I apologized in a terrified tone and told him I was really sorry for missing his call. He laughed and comforted me saying he’d just woken up himself.
I wanted to interview rapper Tech N9ne, whose real name is Aaron Dontez Yates, because I think he is one of the most powerful independent artists on the planet. Tech is the king of misanthropic, Midwestern hip-hop. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, the MC has built a strong and passionate connection with his horde of fans since his start in the late 90s by making music that is too black for the Juggalos, but too hick for Wu-Tang fans. He’s sold more than 1.8 million records independently, and last year he broke the record for the longest tour in hip-hop history, playing 90 shows in 99 days This spring, he’s embarking on the Independent Powerhouse Tour with Brotha Lynch Hung, Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhoun, Rittz, and Ces Cru to promote his new album, Something Else, which will be released on June 25.
Despite our rocky start, I got Tech to talk about some interesting stuff. We discussed his friendship with Lil Wayne, and he taught me some wonderful new slang like the word fuckboy. Enjoy!
VICE: Are you a workaholic? Do you have time-management issues? Do you sleep?
Tech N9ne: I don’t sleep [laughs]. Nah, yes I do. I have to get my eight hours in or what I do wouldn’t be possible. I have to have sleep in order to move like we move—we’re like the military. We do shows, we put albums together, we put out samplers, we do commercials, and we do movies now—you have to get rest for that. But we still have a long way to go. There are a lot of places we haven’t been.
What made you decide to go on tour just a year after your recording-breaking, 99-show Hostile Takeover Tour?
Every time we put out albums, we have to go on tour to support our album, and I put out albums all year long. The only reason why I didn’t do another domestic tour was because I was in Europe and Canada. So I haven’t stopped touring, I’ve just been playing shows in other countries. I have a new album coming out called Something Else and all the other acts on the tour have albums coming out, so we’re trying to support them.
How do you choose your artists for the tour? Do you choose artists just by the fact that they’re putting out records or do you handpick them for their talent?
I choose all of them carefully. I chose them to be elite, so when it comes to making albums, I don’t have a problem with them. When it comes to touring, I don’t have to babysit any of them.
Your latest single featuring T-Pain is titled “B.I.T.C.H.” I’m a feminist, so I don’t really like that it’s called that, but…
[N9ne interrupts me, slightly agitated] It’s called “Breaking in to Colored Houses.” T-Pain and I have worked together, like, three times. We did a track on my last album, All 6’s and 7’s, with Lil Wayne. We also did one for his Stoic mixtape and now this song because that’s my brother and I love what he does.
Do you and Wayne have a lot in common? You two basically have the same job.
Yeah, we’re real dudes. Right before I called you, I was about to text him and say, "I’m glad you’re OK, boy." He always texts me back, he’s a real guy. That’s what we have in common. We also have stress in common, and with stress comes a lot of other things. Everybody has stress. That’s what we deal with as human beings. So whenever one of us is having stress, we hit each other up and go, “Are you OK? You good?”
Do you think moguls like you, Wayne, and Birdman are a bit more down to Earth and have more camaraderie between you than other label CEOs who are not also rappers and super intimidating black men?
If you’re real, you get real results from other real people. If you ain’t no bitch, or you ain’t no shyster, you’ll always get respect. I get respect because I give respect. I’m not shysty, so I don’t have shysty motherfuckers around me. When I meet Rick Ross, when I meet Baby, when I meet Chino from the Deftones, when I meet Corey Taylor from Slipknot, when I meet Travis Barker, when I meet Jay-Z, when I run into these people, they are respectful. And I am, too. If they sense there was a bitch in me, it probably wouldn’t be that way. If people would just be themselves, they would have camaraderie with other people like we do. But not everyone is built to be 100 percent man.
So you’re saying you never run into asshole business people or negative people?
I’ve run into some throughout my journey, but we don’t fuck with them. When people show you their colors, you stay away, and you don’t go backwards. We try not to keep fuckboys around us, you know?
I’m not sure what your religion is, but it sounds like you have a very simple karmic idea about life, friends, and business.
Totally. I was raised a Christian. My mom married a Muslim when I was 12. I ran away from home when I was 17 and I’ve been on the streets ever since. I didn’t run away from home because I didn’t have love, I ran away from home because I was confused and there’s nothing wrong with being confused. When you’re confused, you try to figure out what the fuck you’re confused about, and knowledge comes from that.
You have any advice for young rappers who want to succeed in the game?
Everybody thinks they have rhythm. But that’s not the case. If you’re going to succeed in music, rhythm is one thing you have to have. But you know, there’s technology now called Pro Tools that will make you sound like you have rhythm. Technology makes it easier for young people, nowadays. We didn’t have that back in the day. But now, we see how easy it is to sound good when you don’t. So I say to the young people who are trying to do music, just make sure you have those extremely beautiful pulses. When I say pulses, I mean beats. Without a pulse, there is no life. First they listen to the pulse, then they listen to what you’re saying.
That’s good advice. Are you excited about the Independent Powerhouse Tour you're on right now?
This is the best lineup we’ve had in a long time. I wish I could watch the whole show. These acts that we have on the label right now make me want to get dressed and get my face painted early just so I can watch the whole show. That’s a big thing.
And you’re not trying to top your last history-making tour?
I’m never going to top it. Somebody else is going to have to top it. I did my duty. I’m not doing that again [laughs].
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